Everyone agrees that Tuesday’s attack at the Charlie Hebdo offices was an undeniable tragedy. What we can’t agree on however, are the causes or implications, or where our graces of sympathy and assignments of guilt should lie.
Did Islam cause this? Of course not. These were two men acting alone, who were not real Muslims, but fake Muslims with training from a fake global terrorist organization that preaches fake Islam.
Did the cartoonists bring this murder on themselves? No, of course not. But like, also yes, kind of. And who should we feel bad for? The cartoonists? Yes, a little bit, but we should also make an effort not to lionize them for being racist. They were bad people because they were racists. The person we should really feel bad for is the (thankfully Muslim) police officer who was killed defending the cartoonists’ (unfortunate) right to offend people. His actions make the police officer a Real Muslim, and the only pure, virginally perfect victim in this story.
A lot of people seem to struggle with this, the idea that you can condemn a murder and understand that the victim was not someone of complete moral integrity. Just like the case in Ferguson, where Mike Brown died tragically yet he was still a criminal thug who robbed a store, the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo were tragically killed, but they deserved it for being racist. I think everyone can agree with this take without placing themselves in any kind of politically hypocritical quagmire.
You see, it’s not victim blaming to scrutinize the intentions and sentiments of the dead, nor is it victim blaming to say that the Charlie Hebdo staff kind of deserved to be murdered for being racist. Victim blaming is only when you ask a woman why she was drunk in an alley at three o’clock in the morning. Victim blaming is only when you question why someone might have been shot by the police. Victim blaming is NOT however, when you insouciantly rationalize the death of white men who “punched down.”
Now that’s not to say that the shooting was the right thing to do. We live in a society, and societies have rules. Rules that unfortunately don’t coincide with the rules of Islam. But that doesn’t mean that people should take up arms and kill those that insult religions or cultures that are decidedly “down” on the ethical spectrum of Good Satire. For one, guns are bad and no one should have them. Secondly, it circumvents the process of increased legislation and an opportunity to silence speech permanently with laws. In an ideal situation, racism would be banned by the government, and the cartoonists would have been murdered by the state. You know, just so long as none of them were minorities or mentally disabled, and as long as we had a sure-fire way of executing them that didn’t offend anyone’s sensibilities.
This is the correct take to have. This is the way to navigate the “moral complexity” (as I’ve heard some call it) of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. It may be a bit difficult to grasp for some, but the reality is that you can both half-heartedly oppose extrajudicial murder for speech and at the same time pay lip service to the dead and speech that you don’t happen to agree with.
Yes, you can say that the cartoonists sort of deserved to be murdered and distance yourself from it at the same time. It’s called being a coward and a hypocrite, and it’s the best way to approach any issue of “moral complexity.” #JeSuisAhmed